Every game starts with an idea. The best game idea is the one that's popular right now. Get a list of games up, order by the number of concurrent players and make a game like that first one.
Yes, that game was made by 500 people, over the course of 6 years, but they already did that work. They worked out what works and doesn't work. You don't need to do that work again so it's a million times easier for you.
Of course you're not making a clone of that game. That game is fucking shit. Look at the state of the font rendering, it's unplayable. Your game will have much better font rendering - and then everyone will flock to your game instead of that one.
One of the most important steps is getting your twitter account. This should be one of your first steps for your game idea. What if someone has the same idea as you and they're registering an account right now. What if people are looking to follow a twitter account about the development of a game like the one you're thinking of, and they don't have an account to follow?
By default your twitter account will be assumed to be maintained by an actual ww2 nazi. Be sure to decorate it with the most up to date emotes and hashtags to negate that assumption.
A big part of modern gaming is to reinterpret their content as bigoted and see if you can take down the whole game company using it. Up to date hashtags and emotes will shield you and your games from this very real threat.
Websites are out, Discord is in. It's shocking to hear but most gamers don't even have a web browser installed - they live their lives in apps and launchers. So set up a discord and invite everyone you know to join.
There's a scambot problem with Discord, so you'll want to protect your community from that by making it as hard as possible to join. Have them authenticate their Steam account and fill out an external captcha as a minimum. This is also a good place to throw a survey at them. Bots are smart so make sure it's a long survey with trick questions that they can't skip.
You really need to keep the toxic element out too, so the best thing to do is have them provide their twitter account and hand approve each applicant. Take a couple of days to approve each member. They'll feel like they're joining an exclusive VIP community.
I could write a book on how to set up your discord, but you need a few different things to get started:
A channel that is just a big wall of text and emoji. Add rules like "don't be toxic" and "no racism". Without these written down it will be assumed that you can be toxic and racist.
If you don't write these things down, and you kick someone for being racist - they'll be able to take you to court and they'll definitely win. Protect yourself.
One of the rules should be "Read And Obey The Rules".
Any question anyone ever asks has the potential to be frequently asked. So if someone asks you a question you should immediately post it in the FAQ channel. It doesn't need any sorting or brevity or to be up to date, anyone interested in your game will read every question every asked about it.
If someone asks you a question that you suspect is in the FAQ, or can be interpreted from a question in the FAQ.. tell them to look in the FAQ channel. Even if it's a yes or no answer and it takes longer to tell them to look in the FAQ channel than to tell them the answer.
You should use this as your default answer on twitter too, to bring more people to your Discord. Release date? Read the FAQ. Where to buy? Read the FAQ.
These are where your community will post. They'll use this channel to talk with each other about other games they're playing and share memes.
Create as many game channels as you can think of. Game ideas, game art, modding, fan art, concept art, screenshots, movies, playtests, feedback, lore, sound design.
You basically want between 20-30 unused game related channels. Your members will post mainly in #general for now, but when your community hits 2-3 million users you'll be glad you did this.
You'll want to set up a complicated hierarchy of admins, mega mods, super mods, mods, trainee mods, trusted users, semi-trusted users, users and probation user.
It's the job of your mod team to do research on anyone that joins or posts on your discord to find out if they're a potential toxic entity. If they posted something toxic on a furry forum 15 years ago, it's the job of your mod team to find that and bring it to light.
You need to be careful this doesn't turn into toxicity. For each issue you should have long, late night out debates with your moderators on what punishments to hand out. This should go on multiple days and be taken very seriously, with charters and votes and stuff.
Keeping your new community engaged is going to be a full time job. You can offload nearly all of this to discord bots.
Your mods don't need to stay up until 4am watching your #general in case someone posts "shit" in the chat. You can get set up a bot that will automatically watch and offer multiple warnings before eventually banning repeat offenders.
Tired of all these idiots that don't read the rules? You could have a bot watch for sentences that end in a question mark and offer advice to look at the FAQ.
The choices are Unity or UE.
Choose Unity first. Learn everything about it. Your community will be interested in hearing about how you're learning basic game development things while you're making the game. Spend a minimum of time on the actual game. The game happens naturally. Focus all of your attention on your development environment. Make the tools, the tools will make the game.
After you've learned pretty much everything and got all your tools set up the way you want, there'll be an annual Unreal Engine event showcasing all the newest features. You should look at the 30 second demo made by dozens of professional developers and artists and attribute all the work to the engine itself. This is when you make the brave but unavoidable choice to switch to UE, for the good of your game.
Don't worry - you won't look like an idiot. You can blame the engine. Explain that the Unity engine is constraining your vision and that despite starting practically from scratch, the game will be finished faster under UE because of blueprints - and will end up much better as a result.
A bonus of switching to UE is that you can post screenshots of your blueprints on Twitter and Discord. They should be zoomed out and compressed enough to be useless for anything other than displaying the overwhelming and unmanageable complexity of it.
You should use this time to point out that it was impossible to make this type of game using Unity, and that Unity is really made for mobile and gambling machines. If anyone points out that there are multiple popular releases of this type of game made in Unity, eject them from the Discord for being toxic and quote tweet them with "??????".
Post as much useless garbage as you can. UFO theories, pictures of your pets, constant apologies for not posting as much as you should, polls about what to have for dinner. Crusades against other developers, middleware companies, potential customers and former employers are also popular.
The general rule is the more tweets you make, the more eyes on your tweets, the more bots will subscribe to you. When people see your game has lots of subscribers, they'll feel like they're missing out and subscribe too.
If you really want to post about your game, post only unlit low quality screen grabs of funny bugs from the editor view.
It might sound crazy to spend $1,000 to travel to a game exhibition event with your computer, and spend $2,000 on posters, cutout and business cards, and $800 on a hotel room and food for 4 days, and then spend $2,000 to rent a tiny booth in a sea of tiny booths, just to sit there for 4 days and let less than 50 people play your game for free while you watch them.. but it's the best way to promote your game to those 50 people.
If each one of those 50 people tells just another 1,000 people about your game, and each of those buys your game, you're talking about $1.5m in your pocket. That's nearly a 300x return on your investment.
If one of those 50 people was from Microsoft you and your game are on their radar now. They will want to offer you a lump sum to put your game on Game Pass.
If your game is like Untitled Goose Game, look it up. SteamSpy says about 1,000,000 owners. Multiply that by the cost of your game. That's your ask, $20,000,000 for gamepass.
If your game is like Fallguys, SteamSpy estimates 20,000,000 owners. Multiply that by the cost of your game.. $700,000,000 for gamepass.
If your game has got shooting in it, Call Of Duty sold tons.. $5bn for gamepass.
It might sound sound silly to ask for $5bn to distribute your indie game, but keep in mind that this is how much it's going to make anyway. And if Microsoft don't pay it - Epic will.
This is all basic maths. Don't let the big guys take advantage of you.
If none of the big distribution platforms want your game (because it's too risky for them and they don't understand the future of gaming) then consider falling back on Steam, the netscape of game distribution. It's quite quaint by today's standards but it has developed a loyal following of young men into big tittied japenese cat sex games.
The nice thing about Steam is that it's their responsibility to advertise and sell your game. If your game isn't selling well then it's up to them to bring those numbers up. If the latest Grand Theft Auto is showing up on the front page more than your game, something is definitely wrong with the algorithm. Definitely compare your game to Grand Theft Auto in every conversation with them.
Be aware that if you're going to sell your game on Steam you need to do everything in your power to keep your players playing for longer than 2 hours. If they've played for less than 2 hours they will refund the game, no matter how much they've enjoyed it.
Artificially lengthen load times, unskippable cutscenes, title screens, credits, dialog. When they quit the game, just hide the window - don't actually close the game.
YouTube & Twitch
If you watch a movie for free on tv you don't usually order the DVD so you can watch it again. It's exactly the same scenario with games. Exactly the same.
There's a recent trend among "content creators" where they'll pirate the game by filming themselves play it, then show that video on the internet for free. Other pirates watch these videos instead of buying the game.
YouTube and Twitch love this - because they make millions of dollars from every video. Every view on one of these videos is a lost sale. It's $50 out of your pocket and straight into the pocket of a content pirate.
Skip Google and Amazon, report these people directly to the police.
So you gave it your best go. You released a game and you're not a multi-millionaire. None of the twitter followers that said "I WOULD BUY THIS" to the bug gifs actually bought it.
You missed your opportunity, this was your only chance and there's no point reading feedback and releasing updates to try to make things better.
It's not your fault really, everyone knows PC Gaming is dead. You got fucked by Steam refunds, Steam only cares about GTA, no-one is buying or playing games anymore. Way too much youtube piracy.
But all hope isn't lost - you gained all that knowledge. You're a game developer now. Maybe consider making a mobile game. That'll be way easier, there's tons of money to be made in mobile games. And Candy Crush is such a simple game, you could knock that out in a couple of weeks, but with way better font rendering.